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2013 Scientific Report

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  • Clinical
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  • Scientific
  • Tumor
  • Laboratory
  • Signaling

Introduction

Introduction 1

Van Andel Research Institute | Scientific Report Introduction Phase II of the Van Andel Institute building, which opened in late 2009, added 240,000 square feet to the Institute, nearly tripling the available laboratory space, and it garnered LEED Platinum status from the United States Green Building Council. This expansion enabled the start of a major new initiative into the study of neurodegenerative diseases and provided the infrastructure to establish the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) Center for Neurodegenerative Science. The Center is led by Dr. Patrik Brundin, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of Parkinson’s disease, who arrived from Lund University in Sweden in January 2012. Dr. Brundin holds the Jay Van Andel Endowed Chair in Parkinson’s Research and also serves as VARI Associate Director. The VARI investigator staff welcomed two other distinguished members into its ranks in 2012. Jeremy Van Raamsdonk’s research focuses on aging, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. He heads the Laboratory of Aging and Neurodegenerative Disease, and in his translational research, positive results from studies in worm and mouse models will be used to identify therapeutic targets for clinical trials. Xiaohong Li leads the Laboratory for Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis. Her research focuses on the role of stromal transforming growth factor (TGF-b) in the microenvironment of primary and metastatic tumor sites and its effect on bone metastases, with the aim of developing early diagnostic and treatment strategies for breast and prostate cancer metastasis to bone. The Institute hosted world-renowned researchers in 2012 and honored two of them for their contributions to science. In May 2012, Dr. Phillip A. Sharp was the first recipient of the Institute’s Han-Mo Koo Memorial Award. Dr. Sharp received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of RNA splicing, which fundamentally changed the understanding of gene structure. Much of his research has focused on the molecular biology of gene expression relevant to cancer. The Han-Mo Koo Award recipients are selected on the basis of their scientific achievements and contributions to human health and research. The award is named for one of VAI’s founding scientists who, in 2004 at the age of 40, succumbed to aggressive NK T-cell lymphoma, a rare form of cancer. The Van Andel Institute held the “Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease” symposium in September 2012, gathering experts from nearly a dozen nations to present the latest research on this devastating disease. Dr. Ted Dawson of Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Roger Barker of the University of Cambridge provided keynote addresses. During the symposium, the Institute presented the inaugural Jay Van Andel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Parkinson’s Disease Research to Dr. Andrew B. Singleton of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Singleton’s research focuses on the genetic causes of Parkinson’s disease, and he is actively studying the consequences of gene alterations in the context of the aging brain. VARI researchers in 2012 had much success in terms of funded grant proposals and sponsored research. Major grants included the following: • a four-year R01 renewal from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Bart Williams for the project entitled “Analyzing the Role of Wnt Signaling in Bone Development”; • a five-year R01 award to Cindy Miranti for a project on “The Role of a6b1 Integrin in Prostate Cancer”; • a three-year R01 award to Karsten Melcher for “Structural and Functional Analysis of a Dynamic ABA Signaling Complex”; and • a five-year NIH U01 award to Brian Haab for a project on “Targeted Glycomics and Affinity Reagents for Cancer Biomarker Development”. 2

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